Yaping Deng overcame her small stature to dominate female table tennis. After retiring, she was voted Chinese Athlete of the Century
The biggest obstacle in Deng Yaping's table tennis career was not her opponents, but her height. When she was 13 years old she won the national championship but was refused a spot on the national team due to her small size. They finally saw sense and let her in a year later.
At the 1992 Barcelona Games, Deng and her partner Qiao Hong won the doubles title. They later faced each other in the singles final. Deng won the first two sets easily but Hong fought back and won the third and led in the fourth. However, Deng regained control and won 23-21 to earn her second gold medal.
Deng went on to dominate the sport and successfully defended her Olympic titles in 1996. She also won the singles World Championship title in 1991, 1995 and 1997 and the doubles World Championship title in 1989, 1995 and 1997. Hong Qiao was her partner in all of those finals, except at the 1997 World Championships, when she was partnered by Ying Yang.
Retiring at the top
Deng retired at the age of 24 having won more titles than any other player in the history of table tennis. She continued to play a role in the Olympic Movement and in 1997 was elected to the International Olympic Committee’s Athletes’ Commission. In 2003, she was voted Chinese Athlete of the Century.